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Business travel reimagined

The modern way to do T&E

Legacy travel solutions had a decades-long headstart on building the T&E process we are all so familiar with. And that’s the problem.


Business travel preview
Business travel preview

Business travel reimagined

The modern way to do T&E

Legacy travel solutions had a decades-long headstart on building the T&E process we are all so familiar with. And that’s the problem.

Business travel has an experience problem.

When did business travel become such a chore? Between complicated booking processes, searching limited inventory, and saving receipts to file expense reports, traveling for work is almost more work than regular work.

Poor travel booking and expense management experiences have massive ripple effects on the rest of your business. A poor user experience in one area has upstream and downstream effects on managers, accounting teams, finance leaders, and more. And it’s only getting more complex to manage as the travel environment continues to evolve.

Think about the buying experience on Amazon. You just fire up the app or browser to access a wide selection of products at competitive prices. The buying process is easy, the return process is impossibly easy, and everything is personalized for you. So when you go to check out, do you pause to look for other deals at places like Walmart, Target, or Wayfair?

When you trust that you’re getting the best deal that works for you, you don’t need to shop around.

The experience of booking trips as a corporate traveler hasn’t made it there yet, for several reasons:

  • Travel is incredibly complex. It requires massive amounts of data and industry knowledge.
  • But the infrastructure for travel is ancient. With much of it built in the 1960s. It’s a tall order to pay down the technical debt on a system built on mainframes and not in the cloud.
  • Which means data flows are a free-for-all. These systems use unstructured comments to share data between systems instead of APIs and rely heavily on scripting tools and humans to fill the gaps.
  • Plus, you have to pay the middleman. Middlemen prevent suppliers from building relationships with buyers. The incentives for premium bookings (how legacy platforms make money) are at the expense of you — the customer.
  • And traditional tools were built for admins. The idea is that travel system admins can maintain control and enforce “policy.” But it’s at the expense of the end user experience. Even the admin experience isn’t great because they often still have to chase people to get receipts and the required business justifications.

All of this amounts to an inherent distrust of corporate travel solutions and compels people — whether consciously or subconsciously — to shop around for a better deal.

The good news is, the travel industry is undergoing a massive transformation as cutting-edge organizations prioritize cloud technology to overcome existing challenges. Open-API solutions enable more integration possibilities, paving the way for seamless innovation in the industry. And AI-powered technology automates much of the menial work associated with expense reporting, including smart policies, automatic receipts and memos, and merchant categorization.

Several limitations cause poor travel experiences.

Top challenges with online booking tools

Travel managers’ top pain points with their online booking tool (OBT):

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Group 48097943

Source: 2023 GBTA Survey

Broken travel experiences that employees face often come down to a few limitations — inventory, the ability to self-serve, and integrations.

Travel inventory

The Global Distribution System (GDS) is a worldwide reservation service that powers the travel industry by connecting travelers with suppliers and inventory. Most corporate booking tools, however, hide travel inventory or bias the search results for economic reasons, which can cost travelers more. Those tools also prevent travelers from seeing local content in some markets. And most recently, some airlines are trying to bypass legacy infrastructure and offer their inventory through new pipes called new distribution capability (NDC), which most travel companies can’t yet support. All of this causes travelers to book outside the company where there’s no ability to enforce policies or analyze spend.

Self-service

Many popular booking tools don’t allow travelers to make changes themselves, which requires calling a travel agent. With travel agents in short supply, you have to wait a long time on hold. Agents also typically use different technology than travelers. So when you do call, they often can’t access your profile, policies, or past trips. Sometimes agents can’t even access GDS inventory so they can’t effectively assist because their inventory is no different than what you see. On top of that, you have to pay fees for calling them, all because the booking tool didn’t allow you to do something on your own.

Integrations

Other systems are closed and not designed to share data with other companies. This leads to more fees, lag time, manual work to stitch together reporting, and a lack of confidence in the data. It’s also not optimized for mobile and global use, which should be table stakes for a travel solution.

This results in your employees getting stuck in a time-intensive, clunky booking experience. They get frustrated and stop trusting the content, so they search external sites and book outside the approved corporate platform and out of policy.

In short, if your employees don’t like it, they don’t use it. And this lack of adoption creates broader issues for an organization.

Travel is just one part of T&E.

Booking travel and managing your itinerary is a beast of its own. But actual T&E spend is a multitude of expenses. With payments for flights, hotel stays, coffees, meals, rideshares, and more, T&E comprises 10% to 15% of annual budgets.

But as we mentioned, travel is complex and the solutions to connect all this aren’t designed to work together. Most organizations then cobble together travel management company (TMC), OBT, card, and expense management tools, all of which operate in their own silo. It’s extremely difficult to have clear visibility and control when all the information lives in multiple different places.

This patchwork of solutions creates low traveler satisfaction, low program adoption, and leakage. So what does this poor travel booking experience mean for your business?

Here’s what typically happens: Employees book travel on one platform, submit expenses on another, and use a corporate card or even a personal card to pay. This means:

  • Travelers toggle among multiple solutions to log all of their T&E, then may have to wait weeks for payroll to run and get reimbursed for charges to a personal card.
  • Travel managers have no visibility into where employees are at any given time and can’t fulfill their duty of care. They also can’t enforce policies the finance team sets and prevent out-of-policy spend.
  • Accounting teams spend hours every month reconciling expenses and chasing receipts, which are time-consuming, incomplete, manual processes that cost productivity.
  • Finance leaders can’t keep travel spend under control because they have limited visibility into what’s happening until after it’s already spent. Business travel then is impossible to predict, and planning and budgeting are just guesses.

Overall, too much time is wasted, money is lost, and everyone involved is unhappy.

Expense reports are costly

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Group 48097948
Listen: Redis CAO Angelina Hendraka reminds us that not even the CEO is above a T&E policy  →

Why is this a problem now?

Personal travel booking is so much easier than business travel. For the sake of your bottom line, employee productivity, and overall team satisfaction, it's critical to get business travel on par (if not better than!) personal travel now because business travel is changing fast — and for good.

New workplace norms in the wake of COVID-19 — globalization, digitization, and increasingly dispersed teams, to name a few — have changed how teams connect and collaborate, which extends to travel.

Some of the effects of these changes:

  • “In person” carries new weight. Face time has always played a role in winning new business with customers and prospects, but in-person interaction becomes even more valuable for employees who don’t work in the same place to connect and collaborate.
  • There’s increased oversight. Rising travel costs, shrinking travel budgets, more emphasis on safety, and risk management mean more eyes are on corporate travel programs, and this often brings added guardrails.
  • User expectations have evolved. A consumer-like digital experience is table stakes for every corporate application, and travel solutions that don’t offer an intuitive mobile experience will get crushed in the app store reviews.

Patchwork travel solutions and outdated technologies are slowing you down. Modern companies relying on solutions built decades ago are at a competitive disadvantage due to their inability to adapt.

At a high level, the solution is pretty simple:

Give your employees a comprehensive T&E platform, one that’s so easy they’ll actually want to use it. With powerful search and booking tools for travelers and AI-led policy, expense management, card, and reimbursement capabilities for accounting teams, everyone wins, right?

But if it was so simple, you’d have had it years ago. So Brex and Spotnana built it together.

The power of travel + expense management.

Brex is the leading global spend management software for today’s businesses, and Spotnana is building the most advanced travel tech stack. Brex travel powered by Spotnana redefines what a T&E solution can be, which is a strategic business tool for modern companies.

We’ve integrated seamlessly and are innovating together to solve a problem that impacts the entire business.

Brex travel solves the typical travel challenges mentioned above:

  • Travel inventory: We ensure you get access to all inventory, including NDC, and it’s never hidden or biased.
  • Self-service: We give you the ability to cancel bookings or change dates, suppliers, cities, seats, loyalty numbers, and more — all without talking to an agent. If you do, employees always get a personalized service experience with agents and travelers on the same platform.
  • Technology and integrations: Brex travel creates a truly seamless experience for budgeting, corporate travel booking, credit cards, and expenses.

And because travel is spend, it should be managed like your other spend. That’s why travel natively integrated into Brex’s platform makes Brex the complete solution for T&E, with travel booking and management, corporate credit cards (including lodge cards), reimbursements, expense management, and automated bill pay all in one global platform.

The days of poor travel experiences are over. With Brex:

  • Enable spend anywhere your team travels with global cards and a 5-star mobile app
  • Access 24/7 customer support wherever you are
  • Get real-time visibility with all travel and spend in one place
  • Keep travel under budget and in policy with front-end controls built in
  • Streamline compliance with automated receipts and reconciliation
  • Deliver a premium employee experience that drives program adoption
  • Gain actionable insights to optimize spend and improve financial planning

The result: You get the power of a modern corporate travel software solution natively integrated into Brex’s global spend management platform, where you can manage all the related expenses in a single instance.

You benefit from direct NDC integrations

In mid 2023, American Airlines cut 40% of its lowest fares from traditional channels, making them exclusive to travel companies with NDC connections. Many organizations still relying on legacy systems that are not NDC-ready were caught off guard. Similarly, American has announced that in May 2024, it will restrict mileage credit if you book through certain third-party platforms.

Brex travel delivers unparalleled experiences to business travelers through direct NDC connections with airlines via Spotnana, which partnered on a direct NDC integration with American Airlines in September 2022. Anyone booking on Brex travel can access the widest possible set of flight options and full mileage credit, as well as American’s suite of products and services.

The reality is, it’s only a matter of time before additional airlines, hotels, and other related businesses abandon the legacy model hampering their success and adopt a better way that best serves business and leisure travelers.

A better travel experience awaits.

Fixing a broken travel experience leads to a host of benefits for your business. See how leading identity company Incode unified credit card, travel, and reimbursement systems to get a more accurate picture of its global spend.

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